Posted by: Liz O'Reilly
When I ask my Members if they've tasted Tempranillo, most of them give me a resounding no! But that's no problem; I love nothing more than introducing wine lovers to new pleasures. So I start by explaining that it's the second most popular grape variety in Spain – the silence on the other end of the line is deafening. But I'm not that easily put off, so I continue with a simple comparison – think Cabernet to the French, Sangiovese to Italians and Shiraz to Australians. That's what Tempranillo is to the Spanish. Enough said.
From Rioja to Margaret River and beyond
Tempranillo is grown in Northern and Central Spain, most famously in the world renowned region of Rioja. In Australia, you'll find it from Queensland's Granite Belt to Margaret River and everywhere in between. It is no longer Sangiovese that is the up and coming variety.
Oak & Aging
Oak plays an important role with Tempranillo. Most Spanish wine laws and classifications centre on the time the wine spends in the barrel.
Crianza – aged for two years before release, one of which must be spend in oak.
Reserva – aged for three years, with at least 18 months in oak.
Gran Reserva – aged for five years with two or more spent in oak.
First brought to Australia in 1908 by François De Castella, Tempranillo is now made by more than 200 wineries around the country. I think some of its popularity comes from our 'flying winemakers' jetting off to Europe in our off season and adapting traditional Old World ideas in their own New World styles. It has a short ripening period, so it is versatile and particularly suited to cool climates. Along with the fact that it has great colour, superb fruit flavour, low acid, tannins and it works especially well with oak, this makes it hardly surprising that Aussie winemakers have jumped on board. As for me, my love of Tempranillo started back in my restaurant days. Like the Aussie wines I was also enjoying at the time, it was big and fruity with beautiful use of oak.
A versatile food wine
It's easy to see why Tempranillo appeals not just to our winemakers but to wine drinkers too. Tempranillo is a wonderful food wine. Imagine sitting in some little tapas bar in Spain with a plate of jamon, chorizo, olives and pickled mushrooms or paella. Add a little Tempranillo to the mix? Yes please! It's a winner with pork too. In the summer I like to pair my pork dishes with an aged Chardonnay, but once those cooler months set in, it is Tempranillo all the way.
And it loves lamb as much as Aussies do. Think of it as something in between Pinot and Cabernet with added spice, so you can also try it with duck or gamey meats too.
My top pick
One of my favourite Australian Tempranillos comes from McLaren Vale producer Chapel Hill. Chapel Hill Il Vescovo Tempranillo is made in a crianza style and has lovely black cherries and dried sage on the nose. The palate is smooth and creamy with just a thread of acid and lashings of black cherry, toast and dried herbs, all beautifully intermingled. My only problem? Will there be any left in my cellar, so that I can see how it's developing in three years' time? Unfortunately I very much doubt it!
Liz O'Reilly has been a Personal Wine Advisor for The Wine Society for 10 years. Having developed a passion for wine during her days working in the fine dining industry in Europe, and after travelling extensively, Liz was able to satisfy her twin passions for customer service and wine at The Wine Society. For any wine advice, call Liz on (02) 9431 4093 on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 10am and 4pm or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, April 14, 2014